Westland (New Zealand)
Initially European development was based on gold and coal mining as well as forestry and farming. Now this heritage and the spectacular scenery make tourism a major industry.
Parts of Westland receives some of the highest rainfall in the world. Be prepared and bring a decent raincoat. This is during the Summer months as in Winter the area has some of the nicest weather around New Zealand.
It has been said that this more remote part of the country is the "real" New Zealand, the way it used to be.
From Christchurch you can travel by two alternative routes to Greymouth:
State Highway 6 runs the length of the West Coast and most notable detinations are either on the highway or a short distance from it. In some places it is the only road in town and some of the locals suggest that Westland is really just a village connected by the longest main street in the world.
This highway is suitable for all forms of vehicular transport, though caution is suggested if driving a campervan or larger vehicle on this road as some corners and turning areas are very tight. Drivers will also encounter the occasional one-lane bridge along the route.
The highway travels through or near several large national parks along the scenic Southern Alps. Westland National Park is one of the most popular and accessible but can only be reached from State Highway 6. The park contains the western slopes of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman as well as Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, the two most accessible glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere.
Westland is the major source of Whitebait, a New Zealand delicacy. The tiny fingerlings of native fish are pan fried whole in an egg patty.
At one time Hokitika, alone, had over 100 drinking establishments. Now you will be hard pressed to find that many in the whole of Westland. However, the brewer's tradition has not been lost and beer is still the favoured drink after a hard day's work or travelling.
The area has a good supply of backpacker accommodation, which are generally equipped with a bar that will stay open into the wee small hours.
The region is quite isolated so if you get in trouble you may have difficult getting medical treatment or emergency assistance in a hurry. Ensure your spare tyre is in good condition, your emergency kit is stocked up, you have a full tank of fuel, some emergency food and drink, warm clothes and a map; because it could be a long wait if you have a mishap or a long walk to the nearest place to get help. Also, be prepared to stop and assist another traveller in trouble.
Do not rely on mobile telephones working outside of urban areas. This part of the South Island is part of the 5% of New Zealand that cellphones don't/won't work because there is no network coverage and insufficient demand to justify any. And if there is coverage it is probably only available from a network provider that you do not have a phone for.
It is possible to use SAT Phones and some businesses may give a SAT Phone number as an alternative contact number.
Internet access can be found in the Greymouth library. Some Holiday Parks may also have Internet for a fee.